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Agence France-Presse

Copenhagen Climate Conference Opens to Dire Warnings

Richard Ingham and Marlowe Hood

A Danish policeman stands next to an art installation located near the exit of the Bella Center in Copenhagen December 6, 2009. The largest-ever climate talks formally opened on Monday in Denmark aiming to agree the outlines of global deal to stave off dangerous climate change, such as rising seas and more intense storms. (REUTERS/Bob Strong)

COPENHAGEN - A landmark conference on climate change opened in
Copenhagen on Monday, with grim warnings of the apocalyptic dangers for
mankind if world leaders fail to agree a way to stave off global

The impact on humanity of man-made drought, flood,
storms and rising seas were spelt out at the start of the 12-day
meeting, which will climax with more than 110 heads of state or
government in attendance.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke
Rasmussen warned that the world was looking to Copenhagen to safeguard
the generations of tomorrow.

"For the next two weeks, Copenhagen
will be Hopenhagen. By the end, we must be able to deliver back to the
world what was granted us here today: hope for a better future," he

Opening ceremonies began with a short sci-fi film featuring
children of the future facing an apocalypse of tempests and desert
landscapes if world leaders failed to act today.

"Please help save the world," said a terrified little girl at the end of the film. Poll: Public want action

A choir of Danish youngsters then sang a plaintive song to delegates, accompanied by a brass ensemble.

The negotiation marathon gathers members of the UN Framework Convention
on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the fruit of the 1992 Rio summit.

Its rollcall of 192 nations was joined this year by Iraq and Somalia, the conference heard.

must craft a blueprint for tackling manmade "greenhouse" gases blamed
for trapping solar heat and disrupting Earth's fragile climate system.
Reducing carbon emissions: the options

They must also put
together a funding mechanism able to channel hundreds of billions of
dollars to poor nations most exposed to the effects of climate change.

all goes well, world leaders on December 18 will agree a political deal
that sets down the course of action, including a roster of national

Further negotiations are expected to take place in 2010
to fill in the details. A legally-binding treaty would take effect from
the end of 2012.

Analysts, though, stress the deep gap between
the demands of developing countries and the willingness of rich
countries to dig both into their pockets and into their carbon


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Connie Hedegaard, a Danish politician elected to chair the talks, said political will "will never be stronger."

"This is our chance. If we miss it, it could take years before we get a new and better one -- if ever."

President Barack Obama is hoping to push through a new deal after the
United States -- the world's biggest economy -- rejected the Kyoto
Protocol under his predecessor, George W. Bush.

But the US
Congress is still hammering out legislation to cut emissions, and
Obama's opponents have been emboldened by a scandal over hacked emails
from British academics that they say raises questions on the science
behind climate change.

The head of the UN's Nobel-winning panel
of climate experts on Monday said he suspected the hack was an attempt
to undermine his organisation.

"Given the wide-ranging nature of
(climate) change that is likely to be taken in hand, some naturally
find it inconvenient to accept its inevitability," Rajendra Pachauri,
chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told
the conference.

"The recent incident of stealing the emails of
scientists at the University of East Anglia shows that some would go to
the extent of carrying out illegal acts, perhaps in an attempt to
discredit the IPCC."

Saudi Arabia's top climate negotiator told the conference that trust in climate science had been "shaken" by the leaked emails.

level of trust is definitely shaken, especially now that we are about
to conclude an agreement that ... is going to mean sacrifices for our
economies," Mohammed al-Sabban told delegates.

Sabban, whose
country is oil cartel OPEC's leading producer and exporter, called for
an "independent" international investigation, adding that the UN
climate science body was unqualified to carry it out.

Pachauri proudly defended the IPCC's reputation as an arena for
weighing evidence fairly and said: "Warming of the climate system is

The Copenhagen conference venue has been declared
UN territory, with about 15,000 delegates, journalists and observers

More than half of all of Denmark's police force has
been deployed to the capital and police warned they would act swiftly
to quell any violent protests.

Across the globe, 56 newspapers
published the same editorial telling their leaders to agree on action
to limit temperature rises to 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees
Fahrenheit) or risk seeing climate change "ravage our planet".

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